How To Tell If A Check Is Bad?


Just read your story about the dangerous scam (targeting an author), and I am sure glad she was smart enough to see all the red flags.

One thing I’d like to ask is how do you determine the veracity of check? I sell things on e-Bay from time to time and accept checks. When the 10-day period expired, I would call the buyer’s bank and sometimes the bank would not release that information to me. I have a sales tax license and told the clerk I only wanted to know if it cleared or not. I obviously had the buyer’s name, address, check number, account number and routing number on his check.

My bank tells me “Well his check didn’t come back, so we have to assume it’s good.” (Or words to that affect). Either of these scenarios doesn’t make a vendor secure. You and others face this dilemma, Angela. How do you deal with situations like these?

Thank you.

Hi Carolee,

Unfortunately, sometimes a check bounces long after the standard 10-day period. It really is a gamble to accept checks these days. But, it’s also a gamble to accept credit cards. Both types of transactions carry penalties for the vendor if the “customer” doesn’t really have the money to pay for the goods.

We received a check just last week from Africa. The shipping address on the order form that came with the check was for an address in the US. The check was what was funny. It had no customer name on it (no name at all, no address, no nothing) and no check number. Very odd. There was a bank name, however, but no bank address – not even a city and state. The funny thing was that the word “Monopoly” was printed on the check. Ha ha. Monopoly Money! We rejected the order. I emailed the customer and told them their check was potentially counterfeit and that we wouldn’t do business with them. It contained too many red flags.

If you accept checks on a regular basis, you should let your customers know that orders are processed after checks clear the customer’s account (or around 14 days). That will, hopefully, give you a little extra time to secure the funds before sending out the products.

We rarely see bad checks here, thank goodness. When we do, I tell the sender if they don’t send payment for the products along with a $25 NSF fee within 5 business days, I will report them to their local police department for passing bad checks. Works EVERY time. In fact, it worked again this week. A bookstore (yes, a store!) wrote me a bad check. The owner came up with a lame excuse but it all boiled down to the fact that she didn’t have enough money in her account to pay us for the books that she already had in her store. I’ll publish the letter I sent to her in next week’s issue. And, my bad check letter worked yet again! She had already reimbursed us for the bad check plus the NSF fee.

Incidentally, the Monopoly Money customer got pretty angry with me, claiming she worked at a bank and didn’t understand what was wrong with the check. Yeah, right… Her response just confirmed it was counterfeit.